With a skeleton crew working on cleaning and covering its games, the Comanche Nation Casino in Lawton offered a stark portrait to a week ago.

The Comanche Nation closed its gaming facilities at midnight Wednesday at its Lawton, Devol, Walters and Richards Spur facilities following the tribe’s leadership declaration of a State of Emergency.

Comanche Nation Entertainment CEO Mia Tahdooahnippah said it was the right decision at the right time as vigilance against the spread COVID-19 has taken priority not just among the Comanche Nation, but the nation as a whole. It serves the greater good, she said.

“We would like to thank the Comanche Business Committee for making a difficult decision to help our community,” she said. “This is just historic for our state, our tribe and our world.”

While some staff remain on the job with cleaning, re-modifications and security details, the majority of the gaming enterprise’s 742 employees are off work with pay and continued benefits, Tahdooahnippah said. As a mother of five children, she knows how hard it is for many of the employees to work while the kids are being kept home from school and other activities. It was important these employees continued receiving their incomes.

“It was the No. 1 priority,” she said. “That’s why we took a little longer to think about what we could do.”

The threat of COVID-19 has remained that, so far. There have been no reported contacts with those infected with the virus, Tahdooahnippah said it was in the best interest of patrons and employees that the shut down take effect.

“It’s really important to put people in front of profits,” she said. “Right now, it’s about the safety of our guests and our people.”

Although the shutdown is slated to end the morning of April 1, Tahdooahnippah said the evolving situation with the spread of coronavirus means that things could change. She encouraged people to follow the Comanche Nation Casino Facebook page for updates.

With the 1,200 capacity Lawton venue empty of patrons and most employees, the ringing sounds of games going off and endless conversations was replaced with a 1990s pop soundtrack that paired with an upbeat attitude by Tahdooahnippah. She said the closing offers an increased opportunity for a thorough cleaning process, along with other steps to be readied for the reopening.

“Absolutely,” Tahdooahnippah said when asked if these closings would impact the tribe. But there’s an impact greater than monetarily if this state of emergency isn’t handled correctly. The wager to close doors was to bet on preventing potential danger as much as possible, she said.

“This impacts the tribe, the area, it’s felt globally,” she said. “We’ve had shutdowns before for a day or two due to weather issues, but never anything like this before.”

Written by Scott Rains: scott.rains@swoknews.com.

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